Carlos Hernández Peña

facing the Pacific


this hour       this beach             both


what is (inside), (what is not) outside


lo que es (adentro), (lo que no es) afuera


surf, seagulls, children’s laughter


vertical, circular, horizontal


spacetime – where?


let the sound choose  –


but gravity


does not dismantle itself


waves pound the shore


sand, pebbles, shells and all


está afuera, y no está dentro


is outside, and not inside


what new life breathes salted hot air


    pleasure                     despair




had I flossed six times a day for the past twelve years would evil have spared my sleep?



if my name were Rhododendron

and my lover’s name Orchid, or Iris –

could the curse have passed the garden

without noticing my presence


which style of composition

if I were a musical chord

could I trust for best protection

a jazz arrangement, or a symphony – where,

within the melody or the rhythm section


if I were kitchen spices

could I blend into a variety of pastries

and hot thick sauces –

so nobody would realize

I had scattered myself in disguise

to escape on different dishes


to protect me from a voodoo spell

could I befriend a gorilla

deep in a jungle on my own

or, if left in silence kneeling on sand

would a wise camel appear

to save me from a bloody hex 


if I were only a phrase

would such madness leave me untouched

in a medical treatise

or in an epic novel of lengthy volumes;

in how-to manuals, or history and religion


could I hide from it living in Mogadishu,

in Port-au-Prince, or in Juárez – a market

which day of the week, Monday or Friday,

in what month, May or October


and numbers – fractals, the Fibonacci sequence,

the π number, or algorithmic equations –

could they offer shelter to my mind, better

than a flute, filberts, or the written word


is it too late to turn into pigments, mixed

with linseed or safflower oils on a canvas –

will I find abstractions – like Richter’s and Ksiazek’s 

safe sanctuary for my soul?




not a purple tango, or a yellow samba, perhaps an uncatalogued charanga 



after textures found inside a painting at a gallery, a horologist, a mannequin

and a dwarf pulcinella come together to drink absolute black


but it’s not a three-way conversation since the one with the watch

doesn’t even say a word, only stares at his frozen hour


the composed mannequin insists on some missing swan – not missing

simply nesting undisclosed, to avoid children and walkers with cameras


the clown can’t stop his manic episodes of furious jumps and shouts – 

he does not believe it so: the long neck bird sits always by the pond


as this night grows older, darkness finds its groove, not a single

white feather in sight, not a sound from the one watching time


it’s all about the silk and gravel of loss, in the throat –

every drop of blackness, as they fuse together


in a fist, or in a handful of grapes, in the dense mating of tarantulas

or side by side – the dead and unborn found inside an abstract glass


so, I throw a tenebrous tantrum, knowing well none of them would care –

what space inside a Jackson Pollock painting, or inside a sperm whale


what else to do – my drummer plays her jungle vodka beats, I can’t resist

a desire to crane-dance a Schumann air, at a distance




when your eyes roll back and look inside



while the rain stops, and the stars come out

over a dark rock a fisherman ties together

long segments of ancient rugs –

a tall bearded man, he speaks to you, slowly


as the sun starts to rise over the shore

but you’ve never heard this language before

and you don’t understand his voice


you wait for a sign, another man, or woman

while you think over such talk –

the tall figure at the beach stands before you

not understanding your questions, either –


barefoot on the sand, a carpet weaver appears

from the other end of dawn with a basket

full of fish, and a loaf of bread under her arm


so, now you see yourself in Navajo country

or outside a Turkish village, but you can’t

distinguish the features of the couple

and still don’t understand one word they say


were you expecting food and warmth

or were you merely lost, needing directions?

you still don’t know –


in truth, your immediate wish amounts

to keep breathing your life here, now –

it wouldn’t even occur to you

to ask them about your memory – how? 


a blackfoot albatross circle the clear sky above











Carlos Hernández Peña
Carlos Hernández Peña

Carlos Hernández Peña is the author of Moonmilk and Other Poems (Ragged Sky Press, 2006).  He has also served as a co-editor of the US1 Worksheets magazine, and organized Voices at the Princeton Public Library, a biannual program of poetry from around the world presented in a bilingual format, featured over 30 different languages.

During the daytime, Carlos works for The Segal Company, employee benefit consultants and actuaries in Princeton, New Jersey.